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Tougher Corporate Manslaughter Fines

By Martin Jackson

The Sentencing Council (SC), the independent, non-departmental public body tasked with developing sentencing guidelines in England and Wales, has proposed cracking down on corporate manslaughter offences by imposing steeper fines in its November 2014 consultation.

In the consultation, which is seeking feedback until 18 February 2015, the SC proposes that large organisations committing corporate manslaughter should face tougher fines of up to £20 million, and that fatal health and safety offences should carry fines of up to £10 million.

Corporate manslaughter is an offence applied to organisations that have caused death through serious management failings. Examples include an employee dying in an on-site explosion resulting from management’s insufficient health and safety precautions, or a member of the public dying due to a company’s substandard health and safety regulations.

The SC report cites the latest HSE figures—in 2013/14, there were 133 cases of fatal injuries at work, while 70 members of the public were fatally injured in work-related accidents—to show that corporate manslaughter is a grave problem. Yet since corporate manslaughter legislation was introduced in England and Wales in 2007, there have been only four convictions.

And, until now, corporate manslaughter fines have been relatively lenient since they have been dependent on a company’s financial means, its size and its ability to pay fines. Going forward, the SC hopes to increase fines in order to make a sizeable economic impact on the offending organisation.

The SC’s review supports establishing starting points and ranges for fines to ensure proportionate corporate manslaughter sentences. Current guidelines offer no starting points or upper limits, which often results in organisations being under-penalised, according to the SC review.

To voice your opinion on the proposed guidelines, visit the SC website.

This news post has been taken from the January 2015 issue of CIEEM Insurance Services Commercial Insurance Pro-File Newsletter 

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